Anxiety is running high these days during the COVID-19 pandemic, even among the supposedly laid-back cannabis crowd: In a recent survey by Goldenseed of 438 U.S. active marijuana users, 40 percent said they were using more during the pandemic.
Fully 73.7 percent cited “stress and anxiety relief” as their motivation.
Small surprise, then, that Nick Willeke, co-founder and co-CEO (with Caleb Putrich) of the New York cannabis company Sojen, came up with a COVID-era Positivity Pack for stress relief. The pack includes a CBD tincture, a weighted blanket, a desk plant and an eight-pack sampler of sparkling tea. Price: $129.
But the benefits of these care packages aren’t just for stressed-out, housebound customers. In fact, Positivity Packs are essentially being given away for free during the current crisis: Sojen is donating all profits from their sale to ensure that high-risk elderly New Yorkers get enough to eat.
In an interview Willeke explained why he chose that focus: “When I was in the grocery store and saw the number of elderly people who needed to come and get groceries there, it struck a chord with me and with the other people who work with me on the team,” he said.
Citymeals on Wheels and its home delivery service became his beneficiary. The organization normally provides home-delivered meals to more than 18,000 frail, aged New Yorkers. In response to the crisis, it has delivered an additional 125,000 emergency meals and is preparing to deliver 200,000 more.
Each pack Sojen sells adds to this effort: That $129 price funds three meals.
Good deed? Yes, but Sojen’s contribution is hardly unique in the cannabis business world. A reporter’s request for information yielded an abundance of suggestions: from companies pivoting their manufacturing process in order to temporarily produce hand sanitizer for hospital needs, to food-bank projects, to free coffee for medical workers.
Consider Ayr Strategies, a publicly traded, Toronto-based cannabis company with manufacturing facilities and dispensaries in Nevada and Massachusetts: Ayr, too, is making hand sanitizer in its extraction/production facilities. But it also has another, more unusual, campaign that aims to free prison inmates.
Called Change for Change, the campaign is raising money to assist the Last Prisoner Project, which advocates for the release of those imprisoned on cannabis charges. Change for Change is particularly interested in paroling elderly inmates and others at high risk for COVID-19, considering their prisons’ crowded conditions and perhaps substandard medical care, as well.
“I think the way the cannabis industry, our company included, is working with communities in response to coronavirus stems out of the way the industry has embraced corporate social responsibility in general,” Ayr’s COO, Jen Drake, said in an interview, explaining what she’s seeing out there. She attributed the cannabis industry’s generous response to its roots: “It’s really been in the last five years that the industry has begun to institutionalize,” she pointed out. “It’s “grown up with the businesses embracing corporate social responsibility in a holistic, authentic way.”
Social justice issues that cannabis companies have addressed about over the years, Drake said, include equity for women and other under-represented groups in the business world; concern for veterans suffering from PTSD and other ailments; AIDS activism; and, yes, expungement of cannabis convictions.
Other cannabis companies have reflected similar values during the current pandemic. A small sampling includes:
· Prima, a Santa Monica, Calif., wellness brand, through its PRIMACARES initiative, is offering 1,000 hospital workers and medical personnel free containers of its vegan CBD soft gel, the Daily, plus the option to pick a free Skin Therapy or R&R Cream.
· Friends In Weed (FIW) is a Colorado initiative founded by the cannabis companies Veritas, Olio, Cookies and 1906. Under the initiative, FIW’s business partners are purchasing gift cards from participating restaurants to offer as a “tip” for sales chalked up by their newest “budtenders” recently laid off by those restaurants.” To date, FIW has donated more than $24,500 in local restaurant gift cards and partnered with more than 20 restaurants.
· Equilibria, a Chicago-based startup, is donating over $100,000 worth of CBD products to 1,500 women on the front lines of the pandemic. The women work at hospitals, grocery stores and other organizations helping locals during the pandemic.
· SōRSE Technology Team, based in Seattle, is made up of food scientists and consumer packaged goods, manufacturing and cannabis experts. Those personnel in March decided to assist their local community with a public blood drive, to help with the crisis.
· Eco Four Twenty, in Toronto, makes eco-friendly smoke filters for discreet, less odorous smoking. Recently, the filters’ technology and production capacity have been retooled so the company can manufacture medical masks against COVID-19. The masks are being donated to hospitals and elderly care centers.
· Platinum is a San Diego-based cannabis company that makes edibles, flower and vapes. Since the pandemic, Platinum has hosted a “Budtender Burrito Day,” giving MedMen budtenders free burrito lunches while they work through this time. The company has also had employees donate blood and has donated bulk staple foods and household goods to the San Diego Food Bank.
· Anzie Blue is a CBD company based in Nashville. Its CBD + Coffee wellness shop is located across the street from a hospital, where staffers see the medical personnel going into work on the front line on a daily basis. As such, Anzie Blue has implemented a free curbside coffee program for the local Nashville medical corps. Its full post about the effort is here.
· Green Flower Media, which claims to be the world’s largest online cannabis education platform, is offering its most popular online training program, Fundamentals of Cannabis, for free. Green Flower is doing this to help its community and the cannabis industry, as well as provide new career skills to those whose jobs have been put in jeopardy by the crisis. Information about the course is here.
· Mad Tasty is an all-natural, low-calorie beverage with 20 mg of pure broad-spectrum hemp extract designed to keep creative energies flowing. Music industry member Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and NBC’s Songland is its creator. This month and up until May 21, Tedder has launched a new mystery flavor, with proceeds from online sales being donated to the American Red Cross.